Agenda item

Update to Delivery of Apprenticeships

To consider Report CFO/040/20 of the Chief Fire Officer, concerning progress made following the approval of the development of apprenticeships as an employer provider.


Members considered Report CFO/040/20 of the Deputy Chief Fire Officer, concerning the progress made following the approval of the Development of Apprenticeships, as an employer provider.


Members were provided with an overview of the report, which highlighted that MFRA has been involved in the delivery of apprenticeships since 2015, when it commenced the delivery of Community Safety Advisor apprenticeships.


Members were advised that the Authority subsequently looked to implement apprenticeships across other service areas, including Computer Aided Design, Catering, Business Administration and Engineering and Vehicle Maintenance.


They were advised however, that with the publication of the Operational Firefighter Apprenticeship Standard, the Service considered how this, and other new apprenticeships could be delivered most effectively.


Members were informed that the attainment of Apprentice Employer Provider status, allows the Service to administer these programmes on behalf of our employees; and that the Service is now listed on the Register of Approved Training Providers, as an Employer Provider.


Members were informed that new Firefighter recruits are now enrolled onto the Operational Firefighter Standard Apprenticeship, which is a 2-year development programme delivered through the recruit course at the Training & Development Academy and during development on stations.


It was highlighted to Members that there have been 3 cohorts of Development Firefighters, equating to 59 learners currently progressing through the development programme.


Members were advised that as an Employer Provider, the Authority can claim the cost of delivering the Apprenticeships (currently up to £12k per learner over the 2 years), through our Digital Apprenticeship Service (levy) account; and as a levy paying employer, we pay approximately £170k per annum, into our levy account.


Members were informed that it is estimated that for the first 5 cohorts of Firefighter Apprenticeship learners, the Authority will have claimed in excess of £1m in delivery funding.


It was also highlighted to Members that the effective use of the levy funds, allows for the current funding to be re-invested in training of the existing workforce; and will also allow for funds to be set aside to accommodate any future changes to apprenticeship funding rules and programme delivery.


Members were advised that it is requested that funds received for apprenticeship training, are vired to the appropriate departments involved in its delivery, as highlighted within the table at paragraph 16 of the report, in order to bolster and support those areas.


The Staff Implications contained within the report, were highlighted to Members. They were also informed that the Authority will receive OFSTED inspections, similar to schools, with an inspection anticipated before year end, whether that be a virtual inspection or in person.


It was also highlighted to Members that by re-investing the funds received for the delivery of Apprenticeship training, the Service can ensure that appropriate resources are committed to maintaining high quality Firefighter training, which has a direct impact on how we develop our staff and our ability for our people to be the best that they can be. 


A question was raised by Members regarding the new 2-year Firefighter Development Programme and how it compares with the traditional route.


Members were informed that it is very similar to the previous NVQ standard. They were informed that the NVQ normally takes around 18 months to complete. However, what the new Apprenticeship route does, is bring individuals into the Training & Development Academy every 3 months, along with their Watch Managers, who are also being trained as assessors, to assess them throughout the 2-year programme.


Members were advised that with the NVQ route, the time taken to complete it can very much depend on which station individuals are based at, as some stations are busier than others. However, the new Apprenticeship route takes away this element, as everyone is being assessed every 3 months, putting all recruits on the same footing, regardless of which station they are posted to.


A further question was raised around whether this change has resulted in any retention issues and if is being monitored.


Members were informed that no issues have been noted at present, however this is something that will be monitored. It was clarified to Members that although the NVQ could be completed within 12 months, equally it can take up to 3 years to complete. It was also commented that very few people complete the NVQ in 12 months and if there were to be more, Officers would be inclined to question why, as they would feel that those individuals would not necessarily have the relevant experience.


It was re-iterated to Members that the Apprenticeship is a lateral 2-year programme and that there has been no indication of issues around retention as yet. Members were assured that this would be monitoring and should any issues arise in the future, these would be reported back to Members.


Members raised a question in relation to paragraph 13 of the report around training costs, and asked to be provided with an example of costs that would not be covered by the levy and for information around the general training budget.


Members were informed that the overall training budget, is for the training of all staff, across the whole organisation. They were advised that OFTED are very specific that any money provided, is utilised in support of those apprenticeships, and are very keen on monitoring that. They were advised that Watch Managers who are recruit trainers, are often utilised within other areas of training as well, so it is important that only the elements of their role that are directly supporting the recruits, would be funded by the levy.


Members were advised that every hour that anyone spends working with the recruits, is recorded, to ensure that the Authority are claiming back exactly what is entitled.


Members Resolved that:


a)    The current position of the Service on the delivery of apprenticeships, be noted.


b)    The adjustment of budgets for apprenticeship delivery, to the relevant departments to reflect costs incurred, be approved.


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